Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Tireless campaigner Agnes can take real pride in memorial to 7,863 infants buried in mass grave at City Cemetery

One of the saddest sights in Belfast City Cemetery is the so-called Baby Public Plot, where nearly 8,000 stillborn babies or infants who did not live long after birth are buried.

They were taken from their mothers and interred in a special plot by the authorities. Some families have never found out the location of the graves.

Full story: Bereaved mum’s relief as Belfast memorial planned for infants in mass grave 

Now there is welcome news that Belfast City Council has plans to erect a permanent memorial for the 7,863 babies who died between 1945 and 1996.

The fact that the council is taking steps to honour the memory of the infants is due to the tireless campaigning of Belfast grandmother Agnes Close (64).

Agnes suffered heartbreak when her son Maxwell died after only nine hours in 1973.

He spent only a few minutes with his mother before being rushed to intensive care, where he died later. She was told that Maxwell's body would be laid in the 'Z1' Baby Public Plot. This memory never left Agnes, who has carried out remarkable work helping other families in similar circumstances.

The memorial, designed by Charlotte Howarth, is a 150cm headstone with an engraving of a baby on a bed of leaves. The inscription on the reverse says: "There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on the world."

Perhaps the only surprise is that, in a place that puts such store on memorials - in some cases excessively so - the tragic fate of these children has not already been remembered in a permanent form.

Stillbirth or the loss of a baby shortly after birth has a deep, lifelong effect on the families, and many can never come to terms with the grief.

Much credit is due to the council for backing this poignant memorial, but undoubtedly the real hero is Agnes Close, whose own bereavement some 45 years ago compelled her to right a wrong for thousands of other parents and families in the same heartbreaking position.

Belfast Telegraph

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